Different race, different Northug, same result. With a finishing kick eerily similar to the one his brother has made famous, Norway’s Tomas Northug won the championship in the World Junior Sprint today in dominating fashion.
The resemblance between the two brothers is striking, and beyond their facial features, Tomas also has the same blazing speed and Casco headwear made famous by Petter.
Their attitudes are similar, too. When asked if he had stepped out of his brother’s shadow today, Tomas said no.
“The shadow was back behind me,” Northug told FasterSkier after the race, clarifying that he would have dropped Petter had he been here.
Northug’s teammate Paal Golberg and Federico Pellegrino (ITA) finished second and third, but they were not within striking distance.
The U.S.’s Erik Bjornsen was the only North American male to qualify for the heats. He was sitting in third in his quarterfinal coming off the final hill, but was passed by two others in the last corner and ended in fifth.
“400 meters before the finish, there’s a sharp corner…and I kind of got blocked out,” Bjornsen said. “Those guys ski pretty nasty.”
The heat ended up being the fastest of any of the quarterfinals: the two skiers ahead of Bjornsen advanced as lucky losers.
Tyler Kornfield, who just over two weeks ago raised hopes by winning American championship in the classic sprint, came down with a fever since traveling to Germany and almost scratched today’s race. He still started and nearly qualified, finishing just two seconds out of the top 30.
Even closer, though, was Eric Packer, who finished in the dreaded 31st position, a tantalizing three hundredths of a second from the heats.
Over a 1.3 k sprint course, that tiny margin could be closed by a slightly more aerodynamic haircut. But Packer said that he wasn’t too bummed after the race—and he did remembered to stretch for the finish.
“It didn’t come down to the lunge. I was flat on my back at the finish line, trying to get my toe across,” he said. “That’s kind of what ends up happening when you’re skiing on the bubble. I feel like on a good day I could have been right in there.”
A thick fog blanketed the race trails all day, adding to the mystique of an already dark and shadowy venue. The conditions gave Northug’s win an eerie aura, as he went into the woods in second place, then materialized out of the fog 30 seconds later with such a big gap over Golberg that some spectators were laughing in disbelief.
The Norwegian said that he trains with his brother, and that Petter had already sent him a text message by the time of the press conference. Though Tomas wouldn’t divulge exactly what the contents were, he said that it began with a “ha ha ha.”
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.